The former Fugees star first irked Penn, who has actively been part of the relief effort in the earthquake-ravaged nation throughout the past six months, when he first announced his plans to become the country’s next leader earlier this month (Aug10).
The Oscar winner and activist criticised Wyclef’s apparent absence from his homeland in the wake of the devastating earthquake during a recent appearance on CNN news show Larry King Live. And now Penn has written a commentary about the hip-hop star’s bid for the presidency online after learning the Gone ‘Til November hitmaker is fighting a decision by Haiti electoral officials that rules him ineligible for high political office.
In the piece, published by TheHuffingtonPost.com, Penn writes, “(I am) someone who has spent most of the last six months following the devastating earthquake, side by side in that country (Haiti), with so many others, doing whatever we could to lend a hand. I have never met Wyclef Jean, and all I really know of him on any personal level has come through the fond comments of a few mutual friends.
“Wyclef Jean gave indispensable world attention to Haiti’s incredible misfortune (but) I was there for those 6 months after the earthquake and so many of us on the ground wondered where he was when that kind of attention was so necessary and absent, and why he was NOT helping to keep this desperate situation in the news.
“None among us felt or expressed anger toward it, but rather a universal sadness for his silence, as he is America’s most admired cultural link to Haiti. As the six-month Anniversary (of the earthquake) approached, it triggered the return of the world media, and of Wyclef Jean to Haiti.”
He insists Jean is the wrong celebrity to be running for office in Haiti, adding, “It’s clear that Mr. Jean can have an important place in drawing attention to Haiti’s needs. However, when New York press agents circle wagons of ignorance and sell as deep insight the advertisement of that which charms them about a client, the lives and needs of the Haitian people are sidelined.”
And Penn then attacks Jean for comments the singer/songwriter made regarding his opposition to the former Fugees star’s presidential bid.
The actor adds, “When he chose to attempt to discredit me, claiming… that my time in Haiti had been restricted to ‘one particular area’, that area he was referring to is the 55,000 person IDP (Internally Displaced Person) Camp that I and my organization were tasked to manage by the International Office of Migration…
“Jean said the following: “I would like to tell Sean Penn I do not react on emotions when it comes to the Haitian people. I do not have to sacrifice my life and live inside of a tent to prove that I am for the Haitian people.” No, he doesn’t have to live in a tent. But it would be nice if he visited once and awhile.”
Penn concludes, “These elections are crucial, and I have no part in them. Neither should Mr. Jean.”